In an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional effort, CARTA Associate Dean and Architecture Professor, Shahin Vassigh and her team have been awarded $228,000 by the National Science foundation, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program (NSF-IUSE) to develop and examine an immersive learning environment. The project Co-Investigators at FIU includes Dr. Cheng-Xian Lin from Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Dr. Debra Davis from Computing and Information Sciences, and Dr. Ali Mostafavidarani from OHL School of Construction. The project collaborators outside of FIU include Dr. Winifred Newman, from the Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, and Dr. Amir Behzadan, from the Department of Technology and Construction Management at Missouri State University.
The project is the outcome of previous work supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts and Sustainable Built Environment and Informatics Organized Research group at FIU. The project “Strategies for Learning: Augmented Reality and Collaborative Problem-Solving for Building Sciences” builds on new research that show technology-mediated learning environments can enhance learning. Augmented Reality (AR) – the ability to enhance or modify the real world environment with computer-generated information like graphics and GPS data, in real time is bringing in a new dimension to learning. This project integrates AR with Building Information Modeling (BIM), visual simulations, and interactive lessons to create “Eco-construction,” or “Ecocon,” a tool for helping students to better understand the complex systems and processes of building design and construction.
As a part of interdisciplinary course work, student teams will utilize the Ecocon application for field investigations of various buildings located on the FIU campus. Once arriving at the building site, students activate the ecocon application using their handheld devices or Google Glasses. The GPS-supported Ecocon application then downloads a digital model of the building, while providing location-sensitive information, allowing the model to work with the students’ locations and adjust views accordingly.
As if having interactive x-ray vision, students move around the building and view through the building material, looking at various components such as the façade system, structure, foundation, mechanical systems, etc. Student teams gather critical information on the building by combining pictures of the actual building and the screen captures of their handheld device. The information is then used to complete interdisciplinary team assignments.
Ecocon also includes a learning interface that delivers relevant lessons on an on-demand basis. As students view the building model on their handheld devices, they can quarry and pull up lessons on what they are observing. The response to these queries could range from introductory concepts communicated across disciplines to more in-depth lessons on analytical methods and processes for in-discipline learning.
Ecocon will be used to bridge three building science courses at FIU in the Architecture, Construction Management, and Mechanical Engineering departments, with a focus on sustainable building design and construction. Project implementation will address the foundational research question of how the integration of immersive technology, with BIM models and interactive learning simulations impact conceptual development and interdisciplinary learning.